FCC Warns Personal and Ham Radios Prohibited in Use of Criminal Acts

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Ahead of the inauguration, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau warned licensees and operators in the Personal Radio Services as well as licensees in the Amateur Radio Service that the agency prohibits the use of these radios to commit or facilitate criminal acts. The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) uses channels around 462 MHz and 467 MHz. The most common use of GMRS channels is for short-distance, two-way voice communications using hand-held radios, mobile radios and repeater systems.

The bureau said in an advisory it’s become aware of discussions on social media platforms suggesting that certain radio services regulated by the Commission may be an alternative to social media platforms for extremist groups to communicate and coordinate future activities. The bureau recognizes these services can be used for a range of permitted purposes, including speech that is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  

“Personal Radio Services and Amateur Service, however, may not be used to commit or facilitate crimes,” states the FCC in the advisory. Specifically, the bureau reminds amateur licensees they’re prohibited from transmitting “communications intended to facilitate a criminal act” or “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.”

Likewise, individuals operating radios in the Personal Radio Services are prohibited from using those radios “in connection with any activity which is against federal, state or local law.” Individuals using radios in the Amateur or Personal Radio Services in this manner may be subject to severe penalties, including significant fines, seizure of the offending equipment, and, in some cases, criminal prosecution, according to the agency.

To file a complaint with the FCC, visit https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov or call 1-888-CALLFCC. To report a crime, the agency suggests contacting local law enforcement offices or the FBI.

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